Russia slams Britain’s ‘island mentality’ in Salisbury spy poisoning rant

During a meeting of foreign ambassadors to give Russia’s view of the nerve agent attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, the Kremlin claimed:

:: Britain either was not able to prevent a “terrorist attack” on its soil or “orchestrated” the poisoning
:: The UK was “hiding facts” and could destroy evidence
:: The affair was evidence of Britain’s “Russophobia” and “island mentality”
:: The chemical weapon novichok was not used, saying people would have died straight away if that had been the case

Vladimir Yermakov, head of the ministry’s non-proliferation and arms control department, made the claims in the meeting on Wednesday, which both Britain and the US refused to attend.

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Mr Yermakov told the briefing: “This took place on the territory of Great Britain.

“The simple logic here tells us there are two possible options: the British authorities are either unable to insure protection against such terrorist acts on their territory or they themselves directly or indirectly, I am not accusing anyone of anything, have directed this attack against a Russian citizen.

“There is simply no other third option here. In these circumstances requiring any explanations from the Russian side is simply absurd.”

He added: “It is becoming more and more obvious that this attack against the Skripals in Salisbury is most probably a blatantly framed illegal adventure.

“Only one thing is clear, Russia has nothing to do with this. We do not benefit from it in any way.”

Britain has blamed Moscow for the nerve agent attack on the Skripals earlier this month, saying novichok – a Russian-made nerve agent – was used. Moscow has denied responsibility.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has begun examining the nerve agent used, and OPCW inspectors were seen working in Salisbury on Wednesday.

Appearing before MPs, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson rejected claims of “Russophobia”, saying: “We continue to hold out a hand of friendship to the Russian people – because our quarrel is not with them, it is with Vladimir Putin.”

He also suggested the poisoning was used the help the Russian President’s re-election bid, saying: “As many non-democratic figures do when facing some critical political moment, it is often attractive to conjure up in the public imagination the notion of an enemy.

“And that is what I think it was an attempt to excite amongst the Russian electorate.”

Earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the British snub of the meeting was “another vivid example of the absurd situation when questions are asked and an unwillingness to hear even any answers is demonstrated”.

A British embassy spokesman said earlier that ambassador Laurie Bristow would not attend, with an embassy representative being sent instead.

The French and American ambassadors also did not go, according to Russian news agencies.

After the briefing, the British embassy in Russia wrote on Twitter that Moscow “continues to spread lies and disinformation”.

Speaking before the briefing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said it would be a chance for “Russia’s view to be expressed to official representatives of foreign states”.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia wanted Britain to tell it where Mr Skripal and his daughter were currently located.

He said Moscow also wanted to know why Britain had accused Russia of being responsible when the police investigation had not yet been completed.

“Overall there is no doubt that the current British leadership has consciously taken a course to undermine Russian-British relations,” Mr Lavrov said at a news conference during a visit to Japan.

“If this will continue in the form of any tangible new anti-Russian actions then of course nobody has cancelled the principle of reciprocity.

“It would be good for everyone and for (the British Government) if they stopped getting agitated and calmed down.”

It comes after 23 Russian diplomats left Britain on Tuesday after being expelled.

Moscow has responded in kind, with 23 British diplomats in Russia due to leave in the coming days.

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